LGBT Rights Is No Analogy to Global Warming

Melting GlaciersI’m with Erik Loomis on, The Despair of Climate Scientists. This is in reference to some happy talk by Gavin Schmidt. He’s a climate scientists, who does actually seem to think that all hope is lost. But he thinks we should put on the best face. In an article in Esquire, it noted, “But things can change much quicker than people think, he says. Look at attitudes on gay marriage.” It could. And flights of angels could sing thee to thy rest! Anything at all is possible.

The problem, as Loomis noted is that “fighting climate change means taking on huge corporations and gay marriage does not.” He also said that Americans have a special fondness for “freedom” issues. I think he’s wrong about that. But the fact of the matter is that same sex marriage doesn’t cost corporations a dime. So they don’t have a problem with it. Climate change is something that will hurt the current corporate structure of the world. I actually think that addressing climate change would be great for the world economy. But that’s not what corporate CEOs care about. And they certainly don’t care about anything that might happen more than a year or two from now.

Now some people may know that I’ve often dismissed drawing broader conclusions based upon gains in LGBT rights. And they might point out that usually I talk about how the LGBT community has an advantage in that it is evenly distributed among the large community. That’s still true. But that’s the reason that LGBT rights are not a good analogy for African American or Latino or basically any other minority group’s rights. And that is the mechanism by which LGBT rights have made major progress. But the corporate side is big in a different way. It isn’t that they helped a great deal, but it didn’t stand in the way.

When it comes to corporations, we aren’t just dealing with them wielding political influence. When I was studying this stuff in graduate school, there really wasn’t much in terms of global warming denial. Certainly the oil industry was finding any scientists it could that pushed against the developing narrative. And they were funding their own science. But they hadn’t figured out then that they didn’t even need to do science. They could just fund freaks like The Heartland Institute and pretend that they weren’t spouting nonsense. But even that didn’t seem to go all that well until they had Fox News to make global warming denial really big.

Part of the problem here is that if corporations were humans, we would all agree that they are psychopaths. They have no empathy and they are required by law to do whatever they can to maximize shareholder value. (You really have to wonder if the people who created that law weren’t psychopaths!) Now it is certainly true that some small number of corporations will see addressing global warming as being to their advantage. But most will not. And so they will continue on pushing the idea that global warming is just no big deal. Because millions of people dying in the coming decades — and even the possibly of a global mass extinction — is nothing compared to next quarter’s profits.

So no: there will not be a sudden change of policy on global warming like we saw with same sex marriage. As it is, same sex marriage is only legal because of a bare majority on the Supreme Court. If it were up the Congress, same sex marriage would be outlawed. Regardless, we head into global warming at full speed. And I know that people will look back on this time and wonder why we did nothing. “It was irrational,” they will say. And they’ll be right.

How Malaysia Improved Its Human Rights Ranking

Erik LoomisIt’s amazing the progress Malaysia has shown in human rights ever since Obama decided the Trans Pacific Partnership was his top priority…

Malaysia has done all it needed to do — become important to Obama’s trade agenda. At this point, it can use all the slave labor it wants, knowing Obama will do nothing. Promoting pharmaceutical companies’ rights for long monopolies over profitable medicines and allowing corporations to sue nations for raising their minimum wage or implementing new pollution controls is far more important than the human rights of migrant laborers in southeast Asia for this administration.

—Erik Loomis
Malaysia: A Leader in Human Rights Once It Joined the TPP!

Fiscal Stimulus Without Deficits

Mark ThomaMark Thoma wrote a great article over at CBS Money Watch, Yes, Growth Can Be Boosted Without Raising the Deficit. But I think it is critical to understand why this isn’t generally a self-evident point. Conservatives always claim that their problem with government action has to do with the budget deficit. Despite the fact that they have been the biggest deficit spenders, Republicans always campaign against deficits. That’s because it sells. The people don’t like the idea of deficits — it goes against the Protestant Work Ethic and the idea of living within one’s means.

But conservatives could not possibly care less about deficits. And they’ve been very clear about this. Back in 2004 — while the Bush administration was racking up huge budget deficits for tax cuts and wars — Dick Cheney said, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” But it is more fundamental than a single quote. Every time that the Republicans offer up a new budget, the first thing in it is huge regressive tax cuts. This is followed by lots of happy talk about how these regressive tax cuts will so stimulate the economy that the budget will be balanced. Republicans have been pushing this supply side nonsense for 40 years and it has literally never been true.

So when Mark Thoma notes that the government can provide fiscal stimulus without raising the deficit, it doesn’t much matter. Now, it could matter. But that would take a press that cares enough to cover it. And the press clearly does not. If it did care about the truth, the press would have been all over Republicans for the last two decades for their idea of balancing the budget through tax cuts. It’s really pretty simple. It’s like an indebted person saying, “I’m going to pay my debt by quitting my job!” But pointing that out would apparently be too partisan for the press. So they just report this hogwash in a “neutral” way.

Thoma’s ideas for stimulate the economy are very good, however. And what’s interesting about the two ideas that he talks about is that they really should appeal to conservatives. This is because they would only work in a depressed economy. So as soon as the economy improves, these ideas lose their credibility. The first is simply to raise taxes. People (especially rich people) don’t consume all of their money; they save some portion of it. If their money is taxed, the government will spend all of it, thus providing more economic activity. Note that this is true now, because we have lots of unused capital. But in a booming economy, the saved money would be invested in he economy.

The second idea is to redistribute income. Poor people spend all the money that they get just to make ends meet. In fact, they often spend more — with loans. Rich people do not spend all the money that they get. So taking from the rich and giving to the poor will actually improve the economy. Note also that it provides an incentive to business owners. The way things are now, at the slightest hint of a downturn, businesses start laying people off. But if the owners knew that their taxes would go up if unemployment went up, they would have an incentive to hang onto employees.

Clearly, I’m thinking that Thoma’s two ideas could be systematized. You could have the top tax rate 39.6% when the unemployment rate was 5% or less. But have the top tax rate go up 0.1 percentage point for every 0.1 percentage point that the unemployment rate gets above 5%. But it is a pipe dream. Regardless of what conservatives say, they are against taxes on the rich. That’s really all there is to say. But Thoma does provide some good information to counter these ridiculous claims that we can’t do any fiscal stimulus because of the budget deficit.

Conservatives Continue to Game Bestseller List

Ted CruzPerhaps the most interesting thing in David Brock’s Blinded By the Right was the revelation that conservative publishers gamed The New York Times bestseller list. They would buy their own books as a kind of loss leader. Getting on the bestseller list would generate talk and interviews and, most important of all, credibility. Regardless, the whole thing paid for itself. It was, put simply, a kind of guerrilla marketing. What was shocking to me was that The Times didn’t do something to shut it down. It makes the list a joke — even more of a joke than the idea of basing opinions of books on the number of sales — much less the number of sales in one city.

And it is this thing that just the right wing does. For one thing, there isn’t much of a “liberal press” — and what exists doesn’t have much money. (Conservatives would laughably claim that all non-conservative publishers are liberal.) I remember reading in an Eric Alterman’s book What Liberal Media? that when someone looked into this gaming of the bestseller list, the only liberal book they found that used this strategy was conservative apostate David Brock’s Blinded By the Right. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Regardless, at some point The New York Times decided to do something about how the conservative press was gaming the system. And thus we come to the news late last week that Ted Cruz’s new book, A Time For Truth, was not put on the bestseller list despite selling very well. Attack of the liberal media? Not really. According to The Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy, “In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases.” Apparently, The Times isn’t messing around anymore.

Of course, the truth is that the conservatives have a built in system for pushing books to the top of the bestseller list. There are conservative book clubs. There is conservative media. It isn’t like normal commercial outlets. These groups are pushing this dreck for ideological purposes. And to keep their consumers hungry for the next dopamine injection from fear and outrage. Oh! My! God! Have you heard about the liberal fascists? What about the crazies to the left of me and the wimps to the right? Or why you should never trust a liberal over three — especially a Republican?! Essential readers, my friends. It is at least if you don’t want to get duped by the lamestream media.

Conservatives are all over the Ted Cruz thing. There is nothing that makes conservatives happier than a bit of news that allows them to feel as though they are being persecuted. And Ted Cruz has to be pleased as punch. This story is getting him more press than getting on the bestseller list ever would. His book is, after all, just yet another campaign book. I’m sure it’s dreadful. But as I write this, it is the #17 best selling book at Amazon. Looking over the reviews there (good and bad), I don’t think anyone has done more than scan it — if that. It’s all a bunch of people talking about politics. It has 80 total reviews, 73 5-star, one 2-star, and 6 1-star. And the one 2-star reviews was at first a 5-star review. It’s just bizarre. But I’m sure it will make Ted Cruz — and Amazon — a lot of money.

Morning Music: The Doors

Touch Me - DoorsI have an odd relationship with The Doors. On the one hand, they are solid band with a lot of strong material. On the other hand, I hate them. But if I had to be honest, I would admit that I mostly just hate Jim Morrison. He has always struck me as a fraud. Just the same, I think it speaks to Ray Manzarek’s brilliance that he saw that the young poet had “it.”

I thought we would listen to the one Doors song that most assaults me, “Touch Me.” It was written by guitarist Robby Krieger. He also pretty much wrote “Light My Fire.” Both of those are perfect Doors songs in that I love and hate them. With “Fire,” you’ve got that great Middle East sounding melody. Yet it is the ultimate in sexual braying. “Touch Me” has a wonderfully awkward verse melody — I really do love that. But the terrible slant rhymes make me want to scream.


Anniversary Post: 1967 Newark Riots

Newark RiotsOn this day in 1967, the Newark riots started. It was something that we are very familiar with today. The police arrested an African American cab driver for a driving violation. In the process, they beat him so badly that he ended up in the hospital. But there was a rumor that the police had killed him. This sparked the riot. But the police, ever the professionals short two rioters dead right away. The whole thing would continue on for six days and 26 people would end up dead.

The riots are often used to explain “white flight.” But let’s face it, our entire society was set up to incentivize whites to run to the suburbs. Public schools are now as as segregated as they were before the mid-1960s. People who blame whites running to the suburbs on things like the Newark riots have things exactly backwards. Anyway, Newark is no more black now than it was then. It is a lot more brown, however. It’s all about social class and how closely that is linked to race in this country.

This all reminds me of the Gil Scott-Heron poem, “Whitey on the Moon.” It’s as true now as it was then. Actually, it might be more true. The white elites don’t give a damn. And all whites are pretty smug about that.

Forty-Eight years later, and nothing has changed.